Insight Into Productivity, By a Self-Confessed Procrastinator
I didn’t even hear the word procrastination until I was in my last year at school (probably a good thing in hindsight) but then I quickly made up for years of ignorance by embracing the concept with open arms. University was one, long procrastination of afternoon binges of Come Dine with Me (there are 1647 episodes and yet, somehow, it never gets old) and taking anti-climactic Buzzfeed quizzes to find out which member of Friends I was.
It is not epiphanic to say that in today’s online world we are at a greater risk of procrastinating than ever before. Modern life has countless distractions which are quite literally, one click away. It is alluring yet overwhelming, and can often be anxiety-inducing. You may sit down to your laptop in the morning, optimistic about the free day ahead (so many hours to fill with productivity! So many things will be crossed off ye old to-do list!) only to be sucked into a tempting world of instant gratification and old YouTube clips, from which you emerge 8 hours later, bleary-eyed with a wringing headache. This kind of behaviour, when repeated, leads to a serious sense of guilt and self-rebuke. Action must be taken. But what are the options when it comes to avoiding websites and apps that have been specifically built for addiction?
A bold, yet drastic option might be to delete your social media pages. I recently deleted my personal Facebook page as I found myself unconsciously typing the letter ‘F’ as soon as I opened a new internet window. It is interesting to note that you can sign up to Facebook in one click, yet the process of permanently deleting a page is several steps long and you are questioned frequently about whether you really, truly want to delete your page. Facebook shows you pictures of various friends and asks, ‘are you sure? Karen will miss you when you’re gone.’ Luckily for me, the examples they chose were more old high school acquaintances than friends, so I was able to click ‘Yes, Karen is dead to me’ without too much of a guilty conscience. And even after you have managed to complete all these stages, your account will only permanently delete 14 days from the day you make the request, just in case you’re haunted by Karen sad picture and decide to return.
As it turns out, nothing really changes once you delete Facebook, except you have more free time and know less about what your Mum’s friend Julie is up to.
But if you’re not willing to take yourself offline, especially if social media is an important part of your business, there are other alternatives in order to achieve productivity enlightenment:
10 Handy tips from a self-confessed procrastinator:
- Break it down. Humans work best in cycles of 90 minutes, called Ultradian Rhythms. We can go usually 90 – 120 minutes before needing a break. It’s like working out; shorter, intense workouts are more effective than an hour of miserably plodding along on the treadmill. If you’re becoming restless, fidgety, hungry or thirsty, don’t ignore these signs and think you can work through them. Listen to your body and take a break.
- Go with the flow. Identifying when you work best can reduce the risk of distraction, so try to determine what time of day you are at your most creative and focused.
- Eliminate distractions. I have to work in complete silence, no music, nothing. Maybe put your dog in a different room or download a website blocker app. Self-control (Mac only) or StayFocusd (Google Chrome) are both good.
- One. Thing. At. A. Time. Multi-tasking is a myth. An entire blog post could be dedicated to the importance of working on one thing at a time, but instead I’ll direct you to this article which I think sums it up nicely.
- Focus on the why. Why are you doing this and what is your motivation? If it is truly important then you will put the work in. Then think how good you will feel once you’ve finished.
- Don’t spend hours faffing around with tasks which won’t have much of an effect in the long run. Studies have shown those who organise their inbox spend longer looking for emails than those who just type what they’re looking for in the search bar. Prioritise!
- Find a study buddy. We all know having an exercise partner boosts your chances of achieving fitness goals, so why not employ the same theory to your work? Having an accountability partner will help you set clear tasks and goals.
- Forgive yourself – it’s a horrible feeling to know you have wasted precious time, but know it happens to everyone. You have to move past the feelings of guilt in order to continue to strive for good work.
- Don’t overthink things to the point of not even trying. The simple fact that you are doing it means you are winning. You are already a step ahead of the person has decided not to do anything at all for fear of failure, and that’s amazing. (This is basically the work equivalent of getting a point for writing your name at the top of the exam paper.)
- Reward yourself for hard work. Very important. Our brains are trained through dopamine hits – so whether it is wine, food, films, friends, or exercise, whatever works for you – treat yo-self.
As Lorne Michaels (the creator and head executive of SNL) says,
“The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready, it goes on because it’s 11.30 on a Saturday night.”
Sophie lives in London, UK, where she handily fuses her love of travel and writing in her day job, as a marketing co-ordinator for Lonely Planet.